Reopening childcare to cost up to €100m amid Covid-19

Extra staff needed to comply with requirement for ‘play pods’
Reopening childcare to cost up to €100m amid Covid-19
Restarting Ireland’s childcare system at the end of June is set to cost between €60m and €100m, according to the main body representing the sector.

Extra staff needed to comply with requirement for ‘play pods’

Restarting Ireland’s childcare system at the end of June is set to cost between €60m and €100m, according to the main body representing the sector.

Such cost will be incurred due to “new normal” adjustments that will need to be initiated in order to comply with new guidelines for the sector, and to prevent that burden falling on parents.

“Sustainability of the sector is paramount — that needs to be the very clear policy goal here,” said Francis Byrne, director of policy and advocacy with Early Childhood Ireland.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio, Ms Byrne said she could not see all childcare facilities opening fully with the same complement of children they had prior to their closure on March 12.

She cited the fact that additional staff will be necessary in order to process the guidelines posted by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) last Friday, as a key issue that is yet to be resolved.

Under those guidelines, which would see children divided into ‘play pods’, an additional staff member would be required to bring children inside the creche facility within their own pod and to reduce the need for interaction with other adults for relief at break-times.

“There will be creches that will be able to open fully, but there will be others which will not be able to do that,” Ms Byrne said.

Creches were initially slated to reopen for “essential” workers on June 29 under the Government’s roadmap for reopening the country.

However, childcare is now set to be made available on that date for any worker who is incapable of attending work without childcare being in place.

Ms Byrne said it will take up to 10 days for her organisation to get clarity on the implications of the Government’s new guidelines.

Meanwhile, the head of one of Ireland’s two largest teaching unions has said that teachers “will be happy” to return to work at the end of August, as per the guidance of Ireland’s public health experts, despite the ongoing threat presented by Covid-19.

Speaking on RTÉ, Deirdre McDonald, president of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland, said the key issues regarding a return to schooling will surround the equity and standardisation of any new system. “Schools will not be as we left them in March; it’s a different world,” she said.

The hole left in the school calendar by the cancellation of Junior and Leaving Certificate exams this summer should be used by management to “look at the issues”, she said, adding that some work in terms of physical distancing has already been undertaken by the State Examinations Commission.

“We need to see the model to see how much we will actually be in school, and that hasn’t been delivered yet,” Ms McDonald said, adding that she expects to have greater insight into that situation in “about two weeks”.

Issues of equitability between schools will stem from varying broadband quality and discrepancy in resources between Deis schools and others, she said.

“We will not accept a less than equitable situation, either for our members or our students,” she said.

Regarding whether predictive grading is here to stay, she said there is a “huge majority of students who wish they were starting their exams on Wednesday”.

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